GRE vs GMAT: A comprehensive comparison for graduate admissions

The GMAT, or Graduate Management Admission Test, is administered by the non-profit Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which specializes in standardized testing. Widely used for graduate management programmes, particularly MBA courses, GMAC creates GMAT content, organises global test sessions, delivers scores to individuals and institutions, and offers related resources. Similarly, the GRE, or Graduate Record Examination, is overseen by the non-profit Educational Testing Service (ETS). In addition to the GRE, ETS is responsible for other well-known tests like the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and the Praxis Series for teacher certification, among others. ETS designs and administers the GRE, scores it, and provides reports to test-takers and institutions for graduate and business school admissions.
The GMAT is specifically designed for admission into graduate management programmes, primarily MBA (Master of Business Administration) courses. It assesses skills related to business and management, such as analytical, quantitative, and verbal reasoning, as well as integrated reasoning skills. In contrast, the GRE is a more general graduate admissions test that covers a wide range of fields of study, including business, science, engineering, social sciences, and the humanities. It is used for admission to a variety of graduate programmes, not just MBA courses.
In this article, we will focus on their Primary Purpose, Test Content, Acceptance by Programmes, Scoring Scales, Affordability, and other key aspects that are essential for prospective test-takers to understand when considering these exams for their educational journey, helping them make an informed decision on which test to take for their selected course of study abroad.
The major difference between the GMAT and the GRE is their primary purpose and the fields of study they are associated with:
Primary Purpose
The GMAT is tailored for entry into graduate management programmes, especially MBA courses, evaluating skills pertinent to business and management while the GRE serves as a broader graduate admissions test encompassing diverse fields such as business, science, engineering, social sciences, and the humanities, opening doors to various graduate programmes, not just limited to MBA courses.
Test Content
The GMAT puts a strong emphasis on quantitative skills and includes separate sections for integrated reasoning and a unique Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA). Its verbal section assesses critical reasoning, reading comprehension, and sentence correction skills. On the other hand, the GRE features sections for Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning, evaluating general quantitative and verbal skills without specific emphasis on business-related content.
Comfort Level with Technology
Both the GRE and GMAT are computer-based tests, so candidates’ comfort with technology matters. Familiarity with tasks like using on-screen calculators and managing time efficiently is key. Candidates more at ease with computer-based tasks may prefer the GRE, while those comfortable with computer-adaptive testing might opt for the GMAT. Your tech confidence can impact your test experience, so choose accordingly.
Acceptance by Programmes
Historically, the GMAT has been the favoured choice for MBA programmes, with many leading business schools either mandating or greatly favouring GMAT scores. Nevertheless, there’s a growing trend among MBA programmes to accept GRE scores as well. Conversely, the GRE is embraced across a broad spectrum of graduate programmes, extending beyond business schools to encompass fields such as science, engineering, arts and humanities, social sciences, and more.
Scoring Scales
In terms of scoring, the GMAT employs a range from 200 to 800, with distinct scores allocated for the Quantitative and Verbal sections, while the Analytical Writing Assessment and Integrated Reasoning sections are graded separately. On the other hand, the GRE adopts a scoring system ranging from 130 to 170 for both the Verbal and Quantitative sections, with the Analytical Writing segment assessed on a scale from 0 to 6.
The cost of the test
The GMAT is more expensive than the GRE. The current registration fee for the GMAT is US$275, while the GRE registration fee is US$220. Additional fees for GMAT include US$25 per score report, US$100 for rescheduling, and US$100 for late registration. Additional fees for GRE include US$27 per score report, US$50 for rescheduling, and US$50 for late registration. Both tests offer fee reduction programmes for eligible individuals.
The availability of test centres
When considering the availability of test centres, it’s worth noting that the GMAT tends to offer a more extensive network of test centres compared to the GRE. This means that candidates have a broader range of options and locations to choose from when scheduling their GMAT exams, potentially offering more convenience and flexibility in selecting a suitable testing venue.
Test Duration and Score Validity
The GRE is a lengthier test compared to the GMAT. The GRE offers two formats: the computer-based version takes approximately 3.75 hours, while the paper-based GRE lasts about 3.5 hours. On the other hand, the GMAT generally takes 3.5 hours. In terms of score validity, both the GRE and GMAT scores are valid for five years, meaning candidates can use their scores for admissions applications during this time frame.
Score Acceptance
Both GRE and GMAT scores are widely accepted by universities and business schools around the world, offering candidates flexibility in their choice of programmes and locations. For instance, in the United States, prestigious institutions like Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management accept both GRE and GMAT scores for their MBA programmes. Similarly, in Europe, universities such as INSEAD in France and the London Business School in the United Kingdom also welcome both GRE and GMAT scores for admissions. This flexibility extends to other fields of study as well, with graduate programmes in various disciplines, including engineering, social sciences, and the arts, accepting these scores. It’s essential for applicants to check the specific score requirements and policies of the institutions and programmes they are interested in, as some may have preferences for one test over the other or specific score thresholds.
When deciding between the GRE and GMAT, it’s essential to consider your academic and career goals, as well as the specific requirements of the programs to which you plan to apply. Understanding the key differences and similarities between these tests will help you make an informed decision that aligns with your educational journey and aspirations.

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